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Crawford v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson County

Supreme Court of the United States

October 8, 2008, Argued; January 26, 2009, Decided

No. 06-1595

Opinion

 [*273]  [***655]   Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (2000 ed. and Supp. V), forbids retaliation by employers against employees who report workplace race or gender discrimination. The question here is whether this protection extends to an employee who speaks out about discrimination not on her own initiative, but in answering questions during an employer's internal investigation. We hold that it does.

In 2002, respondent Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (Metro), began looking into rumors of sexual harassment by the Metro School District's [*274]  employee  [****5] relations director, Gene Hughes.1  211 Fed. Appx. 373, 374 (CA6 2006).  When Veronica Frazier, a Metro human resources officer, asked petitioner Vicky Crawford, a 30-year Metro employee, whether she had witnessed "inappropriate behavior" on the part of Hughes, id., at 374-375, Crawford described several instances of sexually harassing behavior: once, Hughes had answered her greeting, "'Hey Dr. Hughes, [w]hat's up?,'" by grabbing his crotch and saying "'[Y]ou know what's up'"; he had repeatedly "'put his crotch up to [her] window'"; and on one occasion he had entered her office and "'grabbed her head and pulled it to his crotch,'" id., at 375, and n. 1. Two other employees also reported being sexually harassed by Hughes.  Id., at 375. Although Metro took no action against Hughes, it did fire Crawford and the two other accusers soon after finishing the investigation, saying in Crawford's case that it was for embezzlement. Ibid.  Crawford claimed Metro was retaliating for her report of Hughes's behavior and filed a charge of a Title VII violation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), followed by this suit in [**850]  the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.  [****6] Ibid.

The Title VII antiretaliation provision has two clauses, making it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). The one is known as the "opposition clause," the other as the "participation clause," and Crawford accused Metro of violating both.

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555 U.S. 271 *; 129 S. Ct. 846 **; 172 L. Ed. 2d 650 ***; 2009 U.S. LEXIS 870 ****; 77 U.S.L.W. 4093; 105 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 353; 91 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P43,434; 21 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 609

VICKY S. CRAWFORD, Petitioner v. METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Crawford v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson County, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 24759 (6th Cir. Tenn., Mar. 26, 2009)

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Crawford v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson County, 211 Fed. Appx. 373, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 28280 (6th Cir. Tenn., 2006)

Disposition: The judgment was reversed. The case was remanded for further proceedings. Unanimous decision; 1 concurrence.

CORE TERMS

retaliation, oppose, employees, EEOC, initiated, internal investigation, Dictionary, resist, discriminatory, questions, sexually, hostile, cases

Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Title VII Discrimination, General Overview, Statutory Application, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Scope & Definitions, Regulators, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Harassment, Racial Harassment, Defenses, Hostile Work Environment